Eadwine the Scribe

Special Collections, Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University


The Utrecht Psalter and its Copies

The Utrecht Psalter (Utrecht, University Library, MS 32), generally regarded as the masterpiece of Carolingian book production, was written and illustrated in the Benedictine monastery of Hautvillers, near Rheims, around 820–835. The Latin text of the psalms is written in three columns and is in the so-called Gallicanum version, the text of the Vulgate. The manuscript led a nomadic life for around 900 years before arriving in Utrecht in 1716 and being incorporated into the University Library. During its wanderings, this famous manuscript turned up in Christ Church, Canterbury, around 1000, where it remained for at least two centuries. There, artists copied its cycle of images into three different Psalter manuscripts.

1) The Harley Psalter (London, British Library, Harley MS 603), was produced ca. 1010–30, and was also written in three columns, but the scribes used the Romanum version of the Psalter, and not the Gallicanum of Utrecht. Besides the various shades of brown ink used in the Utrecht Psalter, the artists enhanced their outline drawings by executing many details in colored inks.

2) The Eadwine Psalter (Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS R.17.1) was written and illustrated ca. 1155–60, with additions 1160–70, and was at this time the most complicated copy of the Utrecht. Its text comprises five different versions of the text of the psalms: all three of the Latin versions—the Gallicanum, the Romanum, and the Hebraicum—as well as an Old-English version interlined with the Romanum, and an Anglo-Norman version with the Hebraicum. In addition, each psalm is accompanied by a prologue and a collect. The artists executed the drawings and other decoration in colored inks and washes, to a much greater extent than in the Harley.

3) The Anglo-Catalan Psalter (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. lat. 8846) was copied in Canterbury ca. 1180–1200, taking its layout however not from the Utrecht but from the Eadwine model, including the texts of the Gallicanum, the Romanum, and the Hebraicum. An English artist executed half of the illustrations contemporaneously with the scribe, but rather than outline drawings, he produced fully-painted miniatures with burnished gold backgrounds that in many cases gave a personal reinterpretation of the text. In the fourteenth century this manuscript appeared in Spain, where the illustration was completed by a gifted Catalonian artist around 1340–50, in an entirely different style.